India Warns China of 'Military Option' as Border Talks Falter

A senior Indian officer has warned China that the country is exploring "military options" to deal with disputes along the mountainous border between the two nations in case talks to ease tensions are unsuccessful.

Talks are ongoing between Beijing and New Delhi following violent clashes along their shared Himalayan border earlier this year. The border tensions culminated in a large hand-to-hand confrontation in June that left multiple soldiers on both sides dead, and raised fears of a wider military conflict between the two giant neighbors.

Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat told reporters Monday that the Indian armed forces are prepared for action if required, though only if diplomatic negotiations fail, Indian media reported.

"The military option to deal with transgressions by the Chinese army in Ladakh are on, but it will be exercised only if talks at the military and the diplomatic level fail," Rawat said, according to the Asian News International agency.

Talks between military and diplomatic officials have been ongoing since June, seeking to defuse tensions along the border while both sides continue to reinforce their positions along the treacherous frontier. Satellite images suggest Chinese troops have built new positions beyond the Line of Actual Control—the demarcation line established after the 1962 border conflict.

Chinese troops have been accused of repeatedly violating the LAC since April, crossing the line to set up new positions and conduct patrols into disputed territory. Both sides have been warily watching each other—and occasionally clashing—along the border for years, with both also building new infrastructure to better serve the remote border region.

India has long lagged behind China's building efforts, but in recent years has accelerated work to gain infrastructural parity with Chinese forces along the frontier. Chinese troops have allegedly tried to interfere with these plans through incursions along the LAC.

Tense confrontations and even violent clashes along the 2,520-mile-long border are not uncommon, but June's fighting marked the first time any troops had been killed in hostile action since the 1962 conflict.

Soldiers do not carry loaded firearms along the border, per traditional efforts to reduce tensions, meaning the soldiers were killed in fighting with clubs, poles and other makeshift weapons. The clash occurred at night, and many died after falling from the narrow mountain passes into gorges and rivers below.

De-escalation talks have thus far failed to produce any concrete results. Chinese and Indian troops have refused to withdraw from the disputed "Fingers" area in Eastern Ladakh—a set of eight cliffs that overlook the Pangong lake—where the fighting occurred. Reports have suggested that Chinese troops are using the delay to fortify their positions and effectively shift the LAC in their favor.

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Indian soldiers are pictured along mountainous roads as they take part in a military exercise at Thikse in Leh district of the union territory of Ladakh on July 4, 2020. MOHD ARHAAN ARCHER/AFP via Getty Images/Getty